Basketball season will be here just like that, and the Big Ten’s Wednesday release of the men’s and women’s conference schedules only further hammered that point home.
Short story: With the team coach Amy Williams has on the floor, it looks like a 20-win schedule. It probably needs to be, too, since NU hasn’t hit that benchmark in the last three years.
Longer story: We’ll have a pretty good idea of how good Nebraska can be before the players start the second semester of school.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln doesn’t begin its spring session until Jan. 18. By then, the Huskers will have already played 17 games, including eight between when the first semester ends, on Dec. 10, and Jan. 18.
Those eight games are big, big, big. Just one against a dud — Indiana State, the Missouri Valley’s cellar dweller in 2021 — and the rest against teams that played in either the WNIT or NCAA Tournaments.
Dec. 11: vs. ISU
Dec. 19: vs. Drake
Dec. 22: vs. Wyoming
Dec. 30: at Michigan State
Jan. 4: vs. Michigan
Jan. 9: vs. Iowa
Jan. 13: at Indiana
Jan. 16: at Iowa
Hello! The Hoosiers and Hawkeyes made the Elite Eight. The Wolverines (welcome back to Lincoln, Leigha Brown) made the Sweet 16. MSU and Wyoming (featuring Westside graduate Quinn Weidemann) made the Big Dance and Drake, perennially good, advanced deep into the WNIT.
A 5-3 record or better in those eight, and Nebraska’s going places. A 4-4 or performance would be par for the Huskers’ course over the last three years, a kind of treading water — not great, not terrible — away from which that Williams and Co. have the talent and experience to paddle. A 3-5 record or worse, and Nebraska will have to make good run, in the back-third of the schedule, to be where it wants.
And NU could. After the road trip to Iowa, four of the Huskers’ next five Big Ten games are at home and they could win them all. Nebraska is 12-6 in Big Ten homes game the last two years. Also, there are road games at Illinois, Penn State and Wisconsin, all of which should be pretty bad again. It’s possible NU rolls into the second semester 11-6 and goes on a 9-3 tear to 20 wins.
But a quicker start can only help. Snag a win over Iowa and Michigan — both will be league favorites, based on returning players — and those will be RPI gifts that keep on giving.